Statue of former VP John C. Calhoun, who called slavery a ‘positive good,' removed in South Carolina

The city of Charleston, S.C., began dismantling a 100-foot-tall statue of former vice president John C. Calhoun early Wednesday, a day after officials voted to bring it down.

Where statues have been toppled around the country by anti-racism protesters, the removal of the Calhoun statue was formally approved by the Charleston City Council late Tuesday in a unanimous vote.

“We have a sense of unity moving forward for racial conciliation and for unity in this city,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said Tuesday night after the 13-0 vote. “God bless you all.”

Calhoun, an Abbeville, S.C., native, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1810 and made his way through the ranks as a war hawk before running for president in 1824. After losing support, he pivoted to vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

Throughout his political career, Calhoun maintained hardline support of slavery. In February 1837, he gave a speech to the Senate in which he called slavery a “positive good.”

“Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually,” he said. “It came among us in a low, degraded and savage condition, and in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, as reviled as they have been, to its present comparative civilized condition.

“This, with the rapid increase of numbers, is conclusive proof of the general happiness of the race in spite of all the exaggerated tales to the contrary.”

Almost 40% of slaves brought to North America landed in Charleston, which formally apologized for its role in the slave trade in 2018.

Last week, in announcing the resolution to move the statue, the mayor called Calhoun “South Carolina’s most prominent national statesman” and “its most consequential defender of slavery and white supremacy.”

A special panel of historians has been authorized to select a new home for the statue, which the mayor suggested could be a museum or educational institution that would allow for full historical context.

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